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Historically, P-Platers have driven the oldest and cheapest cars in the family because you know they are most likely going to get dented right? But is this a deadly tradition? I asked ANCAP Chief technical Officer Mark Terrell what to look for when buying a first car.

Mark Terrell – ANCAP Chief Technical Officer

He acknowledged that not everyone can afford a brand new car, but his advice was to get the safest car within your budget and if at all possible a five-star car. He said the later the date stamp the better (because ANCAP makes it harder to get five stars each year to make sure cars keep getting safer) and to look at the different safety features too.

Mark agreed that young road users are statistically more likely to crash than others.

“We can get this bad mix that you have the drivers that are least experienced drivers, in the oldest cars and put those together and it's a bad combination,” he said.

“We definitely are strongly encouraging people to look at the safest car and for new drivers, while it may be not everybody wants to give their brand new five-star car to the teenager that's just got their license, they are the ones that may well need that safety. If it's at all possible the thing is to have the teenager in the safest car.”

I put it to Mark that the modern driver-assist technologies tested by ANCAP as of part of the ratings are really helpful for those road users because they help to keep them on the road.

He said: “They certainly can. I don't think it matters who the driver is in some respects; some of the driver-assist technologies are also about the car that's coming the other way. If you can prevent it from crossing over the laneway, then you might actually prevent the crash without it happening. So that can help with a range of different crash types.”

I know sometimes as a distracted, emotional, over-stimulated and exhausted mum I have found lane keep assist (LKA), lane departure warning (LDW), electronic stability control (ESC), auto emergency braking (AEB) and adaptive cruise control (ACC) have saved my skin on several occasions and I would recommend them to all new drivers.

This image clearly demonstrates the results of crashing an old Toyota Corolla into a more modern version.

When I look back to my teenage years, I see a lot of similarities between myself then and now as a mum. Unstable hormones and emotions, driving tired, overstimulated on caffeine or energy drinks, unfamiliar roads and distracted by other passengers in the car. Parents and teenagers are all juggling new responsibilities; with teenagers it's jobs, parents, mates, college and exams etc.

So Mark from ANCAP's advice is that putting our least experienced drivers in the cheap, old cars is not the best thing to do.

Look for the car with the most recent ANCAP five-star date stamp, within your budget and have a look at the safety assist features most relevant to your needs.

See our list of best cars for P-Platers here.

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